Mulling Mulally's chances as Microsoft's next CEO

As Microsoft's search for its next CEO continues, new rumors and reports abound.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

The rumor mills are abuzz with renewed speculation on who Microsoft's next CEO will be this week.


Reuters is reporting that the Ford board of directors, meeting on December 12, will pressure CEO Alan Mulally -- if he shows up, that is -- to answer directly whether or not he's in the running to replace outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Mulally's handlers have been in non-denial denial mode.

The Ford board allegedly want a more definitive statement. The reason, as Reuters reports, citing "one source close to Ford's board": "People don't write about Mustang, they don't write about earnings, they write about Mulally."

AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, who had been one of the first to publicly predict Mulally was in the lead candidate on Microsoft's next-CEO list, delivered a brand-new prediction today: VMware's CEO Pat Gelsinger.

Former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Hal Berenson, author of the insightful Hal2020 blog, weighed in with his own guess on Microsoft's leadership plans. Berenson said he is expecting Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates could step down as Microsoft Board Chair in a year, with Mulally taking up that spot.

Oh yeah, and just to add one more rumor to the pile, some are wondering about the coincidental timing (or not) of former Microsoft Server and Tools chief Bob Muglia's departure from his Executive Vice President post at Juniper Networks earlier this week. Might Muglia be coming back to Microsoft for a bigger job? (My gut says no on that one.)


The reason Mulally's been considered a strong candidate for Microsoft CEO -- for those who are wondering -- is Ballmer consulted him for management advice. As others have pointed out, the "One Ford" strategy championed by Mulally bears a passing resemblance on many fronts to the "One Microsoft" strategy espoused by Ballmer. One Ford is all about "one team, one plan, one goal." If you're curious about Mulally's high-level management thinking, check out this recent McKinsey & Co. interview with him.

Might Microsoft go the dual-CEO route? Might they opt for a senior, high-profile manager to work hand-in-hand with a tech visionary type? Might a consumer-focused CEO and an enterprise-focused one be appointed in tandem?

As I've said before, I admit I have no idea who is in the lead for consideration as Microsoft's next CEO or when that person will be named. I don't know if or when Gates plans to step down as Chair. And I'm not sure anyone beyond the Microsoft search committee has any real idea at this point, either.

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